The American Bible Society recently released a very robust report on their findings from a large research project on the “state of the Bible.” Over 3300 adults were surveyed and the findings are presented in a 200-page e-book. You can download here. The research reveals some troubling and concerning trends, which I will share in an upcoming post, but the research also provides many reasons to be encouraged – both as a ministry leader and as a Christian who reads the Scripture.
1. More Americans are friendly towards and open to the Bible.
The research places people on a spectrum from “disengaged with the Bible” to “movable middle” (meaning people who are neutral or friendly towards the Scripture) to “engaged with the Scripture.” In 2018, there were approximately 136 Americans disengaged from the Scripture and in 2021that number has dropped to 100 million. Massive drop! Those people have migrated to the “movable middle.” While they are not yet engaged in the Scripture, they are open to the message of the Bible. People being more open to the Scripture is fantastic news as God has chosen to give us new life through His Word (James 1:18).
2. The Scripturally engaged display more hope.
In a time filled with chaos, confusion, and division, mental health has deteriorated. People are struggling to find hope, to feel as if the future can be better than the past. According to the research, those who are engaged with the Scripture possess a more hopeful outlook than those who are disengaged from the Scripture. The Scripture reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus, that this world will fail us but He will not.
3. The Scripturally engaged are significantly more able to forgive.
According to the research, one’s ability to forgive is greatly impacted by one’s engagement with the Scripture. Only 12% of the “Bible disengaged” self-disclose an ability to forgive as compared with 57% of the “Bible engaged.” Surely the reason is about more than reading commands to offer forgiveness, but is also because as we read the Scripture, we are constantly reminded of how we are forgiven in Christ. His forgiveness of our sins motivates and enables us to forgive others.
4. The Scripturally engaged are the best neighbors.
According to the research, the best neighbors, in terms of generosity and community service, are those who read the Scripture. Reading and meditating on how Jesus has served and welcomed us causes us to serve and welcome others.
5. Church engagement increases happiness, hope, and well-being.
The research by the American Bible Society charts people on a “flourishing index,” and those who are engaged in their churches report greater senses of security, happiness, and overall mental health. This study confirms what other studies have found: being involved in church is good for your mental health.
6. Those who attend church online and in-person feel more confident about their understanding of Scripture.
I found this statement from the report to be fascinating: “In terms of their church helping them understand the Scripture, half of those who attended both online and in person say they strongly agree (50%), and those who met only online (43%) or in person (46%) are less inclined to strongly agree.” My hunch is that some of the people who engage with their church both online and in-person are really committed to their growth and their church – such as those who watch online when they travel or are unable to come to church in person. These people are going to find a way to be involved, whether online or in-person. Thus, they display a greater hunger to understand the teaching, to learn and apply the Scripture. The research also reveals what I sense is becoming more and more common – that church members will toggle back and forth between online and in-person gatherings.